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Satoko Fujii Tobira: Yamiyo Ni Karasu

Budd Kopman By

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If it were possible to give ten stars to Yamiyo Ni Karasu, it would deserve every single one for its power, inventiveness and the sheer ecstasy of creation in the moment.

Pianist, composer, improviser and overall whirlwind Satoko Fujii returns to once again to lead a quartet, Tobira, which was built from New Trio (which included bassist Todd Nicholson and drummer/percussionist Takashi Itani) by adding trumpeter (and husband) Natsuki Tamura. Her previous quartet, Ma-Do (see Heat Wave, Desert Ship and Time Stands Still) was extraordinary, but had to be disbanded when bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu died unexpectedly. "Ma-Do" translates as "window," so Fujii chose "Tobira" which means "door," this honoring the earlier group, while hinting that "with a door, we can go out and go in and it's always open to other worlds."

Small groups that are led by Fujii cannot but be extensions of her creative musical impulse. It is to the credit of the players in any of her many projects, that they can submerge their individuality in order to make "the whole more than the sum of its parts"; The Tobira and Ma-Do bands (and, for that matter, the Min-Yoh band) stand out in this regard.

From the first squeals and groans of Tamura's trumpet that start "Hanabi" to the closing scrapes of Nicholson's bass that ends the title track "Yamiyo Ni Karasu" it is difficult to not hold one's breath in anticipation or catch that same breath in surprise and exhilaration.

Despite the intensity and density that the improvisatory sections reach at times, Fujii's compositions always have one or more recognizable motives that provide anchors for the ears, and thus make the music seem almost concrete. Even during the softer sections, the feelings of intensity and concentration remain, for the band is very, almost eerily, tight.

The listening experience feels like one is riding a wild horse or that of an intense storm which approaches, envelops and then leaves. Fujii's music can be described as highly emotional imagery that leaps out of the speakers, changing space and time for the duration. It demands, and will get, one's full attention.

While Fujii is always exploring for new sounds and means of expression, her music is nevertheless is immediately recognizable.

As Yamiyo Ni Karasu progresses, and the varying moods morph from the magisterial, to that of driving intensity, to the positively terrifying, the appreciation of Fujii's creative art only increases. Neither the "avant- garde" nor "free" labels, as normally understood really apply, primarily because of the easily discerned structure (the intellect) which supports and directs the music's powerful emotional impact.

Satoko Fujii's oeuvre has many high points, Yamiyo Ni Karasu must be ranked up with highest.

Track Listing: Hanabi; Run After A Shadow; Fuki; Wind Dance; Centrifugal Force; Potential Energy; Yamiyo Ni Karasu.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Todd Nicholson: bass; Takashi Itani: drums.

Title: Yamiyo Ni Karasu | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Libra Records

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